Amendments to Broadcast Services Act a win for Deaf viewers

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Thursday, 11 October 2012 11:42am

The Broadcast Services Act (BSA) has been amended to include increased quotas and quality guarantees for captioning on free-to-air and subscription television. These long-awaited amendments are being celebrated by Deaf and hearing impaired viewers who can now expect a greater variety of programs with captions meeting certain basic standards.

The amendments, which were passed by the Senate in June, introduce quotas for subscription TV providers such as FOXTEL. These will increase incrementally and will range from 5% on music channels to 75% for movie channels by 1 July 2014.

Captioning quotas for free-to-air television will also increase incrementally to one hundred per cent of programming between 6 am and midnight by 2014. News and current affairs programs must be captioned no matter what time of day they are broadcast.

For the first time the BSA requires broadcasters to meet a standard for caption quality. A draft of these standards, and guidelines for fulfilling these, will be released by the Australian Communications and Media Authority later this year. They will cover requirements and guidelines around readability, comprehensibility and accuracy.  

The BSA amendments have also introduced a level of accountability to both free-to-air and subscription TV, as networks must now report on their compliance after the end of each financial year.

Unfortunately, the amendments to the BSA do not apply to digital multichannels such as Gem, Eleven, 7Two and SBS2. Currently, these channels are only obliged to caption programs which were previously captioned on the network’s main channel.

The changes are explained in more detail in a document, ‘The Broadcasting Services Act: explanation of captioning amendments’, which can be downloaded from our Australian television policy page.

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